Strategic national smart grid vision for the South African electricity supply industry

The Smart Grid 2030 Vision was developed by South African Smart Grid Initiative (SASGI) under the guidance of the Department of Energy and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). The document takes into account all the relevant policies, legislation and other indications of the national direction for the energy sector.

The Vision forms part of a greater framework that is being developed by the South Africa Smart Grid Initiative to guide effective transition to a coherent, modernised national electricity infrastructure. South Africa’s electricity network has provided vital links between electricity producers and customers for many decades. Historically, these networks and infrastructure were developed to support the large, predominantly carbon-based generation sources that were congregated around the coal resources in the country.

This is the executive summary of the report.  Click here to download the full report

South Africa is now facing increasing economic challenges combined with a changing electricity landscape. The national drive for lower-carbon generation options (including renewable energy and distributed generation), combined with greatly improved efficiency on the demand side, necessitates more sophisticated and intelligent network capabilities. Pressures to invest in the renewal and expansion of aging electricity infrastructure across the country are significant.

If South Africa is to ensure an acceptable quality of life for all South Africans and economic grow, new investments must be made different from the business as usual way to doing things in past. With these challenges comes an opportunity to incorporate greater intelligence and automation into the network that can optimally support the electricity requirements of the country.

Fig. 1: Logical framework to guide Smart Grid implementation in South Africa.

The purpose of the Vision is to define a common, national blueprint for the Smart Grid before industry stakeholders and participants commit to an investment programme of this magnitude and complexity. The Vision is intentionally ambitious and aspirational to provide a common vision of the Smart Grid which can be realised over time, aligning efforts across all sectors of the industry. It should also serve to align national efforts across all related activities including skills and capacity building, technology development and localisation of industries where relevant.

The Vision considers the objectives of the Smart Grid and the contribution it is expected to make to the respective stakeholder groups with the aim of identifying the priority interventions and characteristics of the Smart Grid.  The Vision defines, through a process of careful consideration and consultation, a common picture of a Smart Grid that is relevant to South Africa and the challenges the industry faces.

Having an agreed definition or collective understanding of the Smart Grid Vision in South Africa is imperative for alignment of effort and integration into a coherent national system. A clear vision will enable numerous industry role players and stakeholders involved in various solutions and applications over an extended period to “pull in the same direction”.

The Vision also describes the Smart Grid and the expectations thereof in terms of key success factors, performance requirements, principle characteristics and the key applications identified to deliver on these. Metrics and targets are furthermore suggested as a framework against which to monitor the transformation of the national electricity infrastructure into the envisaged Smart Grid and to gauge the value of the resulting contribution to the country.

Fig. 2: Smart Grids vision development approach.

It is proposed that the South African grid should be advanced not by gathering a collection of interesting technologies and calling it modern or smart or intelligent but by first defining a vision and then constructing a grid that serves a defined purpose. The Vision will hold up a view of the Smart Grid against which future decisions can be checked in terms of whether it “works” and whether it “fits” with the Vision and will allow progress against the Vision to be gauged along the long and arduous journey to realisation.

In conclusion, the Smart Grid Vision 2030 aligns to the Department of Energy’s medium term objectives which will pave the way towards achieving its vision to ensure that 30% of the energy is derived from clean energy sources.

This is the executive summary of the report.  Click here to download the full report

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